TORONTO (AP) — Justin Verlander threw his second career no-hitter and the second in the big leagues this week, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 9-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Verlander barely missed a perfect game. The only runner he allowed came with one out in the eighth inning when J.P. Arencibia walked on a full count, with Verlander’s 12th pitch to the rookie just an inch or two outside.
Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
Verlander (3-3) struck out 12 in his first no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007. This time, he fanned Rajai Davis to end it for his fourth strikeout of the game. The overpowering right-hander threw 108 pitches, 74 for strikes, against a Blue Jays lineup missing ailing slugger Jose Bautista.
“Just as good as the first,” Verlander said.
Blue Jays rookie David Cooper popped to second on Verlander’s first pitch of the ninth. John McDonald followed with a grounder to second. With the crowd of 23,453 standing and cheering, Davis ended it by striking out swinging on a 2-2 pitch from the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year.
Verlander calmly pumped his fist and smiled, then shared a hug with catcher Alex Avila before being mobbed by teammates near the mound. He was doused with a bucket of ice water by reliever Jose Valverde.
“I felt like tonight I had really good control of my fastball, and I just used that to my advantage,” Verlander said. “My breaking ball was surprisingly my worst pitch. That’s probably indicative of why I didn’t have many strikeouts. I was just able to move the ball around and keep guys off balance and get some quick outs.”
Avila and Jhonny Peralta homered for the Tigers, who have won four of five.
Edwin Encarnacion nearly thwarted Verlander’s bid for perfection in the fifth when he smashed a liner off the right-hander’s forearm. Verlander tracked down the ball and threw to first in time for the third out of the inning.
“Just off the forearm. It is what it is. I went back there. It kind of knotted up for a second,” Verlander said. “Our trainers did a fantastic job. We got some stuff on it — kind of like a boxer when he gets his eye kind of swollen up.”
Verlander had another close call on the final out of the sixth when first baseman Miguel Cabrera had to leap to snare Corey Patterson’s sharp liner.
Detroit almost had a perfect game June 2 last season, but umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call at first base robbed Armando Galarraga with two outs in the ninth inning. Galarraga finished with a one-hitter.
Prior to Verlander, the last Detroit pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Jack Morris, who did it at Comiskey Park against the Chicago White Sox on April 7, 1984.
“I was a lot more calm today,” Verlander said. “Obviously, there’s some adrenaline — you can’t help it — but having been through this situation before, I was definitely able to calm myself down a little bit easier than last time.”
It was the 17th time there have been two major league no-hitters within a five-day span and the first since Al Leiter for Florida against Colorado on May 11, 1996, and Dwight Gooden for the New York Yankees against Seattle on May 14, according to STATS LLC.
Verlander has pitched two of the seven no-hitters in Tigers history. Virgil Trucks also had two for Detroit, both in 1952.
This was the fourth time the Blue Jays have been no-hit since entering the AL in 1977. The last was by Texas’ Nolan Ryan, who threw his record seventh no-hitter to beat the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991.
Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero (2-4), who has lost four of his past five starts, allowed six runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out two.
Romero was scratched from his last start Thursday at Tampa Bay with soreness in his left side, and pushed back two days to face the Tigers.
Romero breezed through the first two innings but struggled in the third, giving up three runs. Scott Sizemore drew a bases-loaded walk, Brandon Inge scored on a wild pitch and Magglio Ordonez added an RBI grounder.
Detroit used the long ball to double its advantage in the fourth. Peralta made it 4-0 with a one-out drive to left, his second. Ryan Raburn doubled and Avila chased Romero with a two-run shot to right, his sixth.
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez made it 7-0 with an RBI single off Carlos Villanueva in the fifth.
Martinez and Peralta capped the scoring with RBI singles against Casey Janssen in the ninth.
Toronto first baseman Adam Lind left in the seventh with tightness in his lower back.
NOTES — Bautista, who has missed the past four games with a stiff neck, took batting practice before the game and remains on track to return to the lineup Sunday. ... The Tigers have at least one extra-base hit in all 34 games this season. Detroit opened the 1986 season with extra-base hits in their first 51 games, the longest streak in team history. ... Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin attended the game.